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digital zine

essay

What did you dream about last night?

Jonghoo Jeong (author)

Jonghoo Jeong

Jonghoo Jeong (Jay) is a designer from South Korea who is studying Contextual design at Design Academy Eindhoven.

Published 17 Apr 2024
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Illustration by Jonghoo Jeong

When we dream and interpret the dream, is it really a dream that predicts the future, or is our subconscious making us believe that the dream predicted the future? 

In Korea, there is an interpretation of the dream that if you dream of losing your teeth, your close family members will die or be injured. There is also a dream interpretation that if you dream of being stabbed, what you are doing will work out well. There is also a dream interpretation that if you dream of hurting your ears, you will be deceived by someone and damaged.

Dream interpretation in Korea is thought to have been occurring for an indefinite period, likely evolving over time through the experiences of members of society sharing similar lifestyles. According to recorded history, during the Joseon Dynasty, the scholar Yu Seong-ryong (1542-1607) dreamt of the royal palace burning down and turning into ashes, and five months later, the largest war in Joseon history took place. He remarked about his experience, saying, "It is unclear why one dreams of events that have not yet occurred in reality, but it seems to be the nature of the human mind to perceive the signs of events before they manifest physically, although intangible." Centuries have passed since this event, yet we still cannot ascertain through what mechanism we glimpse future events through dreams. This speaks to the mysterious and sacred nature of the realm of dreams, which, despite being unscientific and irrational, remains significant.

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Illustration by Jonghoo Jeong

In fact, a few months ago, I had a dream where my teeth were shaking and falling out, and I couldn't shake the uneasy feeling. I knew what the dream meant, and the interpretation of it was too ominous to overlook it as a dream. All I could do was tell my family to be careful. Not long after that, my brother fell off his bike and came home bleeding all over his face and body. As a result of that accident, he had to have surgery on his knee muscles some time ago. If my brother's accident was a coincidence, my dream would have been just one of my dreams, but my brother's blood turned my dream into a nightmare. (Of course, there are not only negative dream interpretations. My mother dreamed of pulling out a large jewel embedded in a rock while walking down the street, and the next day she won an online shopping prize and received an expensive audio set.)

After this incident, I came up with two definitions of nightmares. Firstly, it is a common nightmare that we have. For example, dreams of being chased by someone, seeing a ghost, walking through endless tunnels and stairs without being able to get out, or falling off a cliff. These nightmares are common to everyone and usually have no special meaning. This may simply be a biological response that occurs during REM sleep. Second, a dream that had no meaning to me becomes a nightmare when it goes through dream interpretation and actually occurs in reality, taking on a bad meaning. Just like the dream I had about teeth falling out and the accident that happened to my brother. The characteristic of this is that the nightmare does not stop as a dream, but reality becomes a nightmare.

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Jonghoo's brother's injury

Of course, all of this could have been an accidental accident like any other ordinary accident, regardless of interpretation or prophecy. My dream may just have come from my worries about cavities. Since I looked up dream interpretation and know the meaning, I may think my brother's accident was predicted in my dream. Since humans tend to think and interpret meaningless events in a self-centered way, I may be overinterpreting the dream. This is because many events and times in this world pass without caring about me, but people unconsciously try to insert themselves into that time, event, and world to leave their existence and footprints in the world.

I will probably never know for the rest of my life whether my dream and my brother's accident were directly connected. Despite the possibility of coincidence and the errors of the subconscious, I still pay attention to the messages I receive from my dreams and attempt to find interpretations and warnings. Once again, I become a human being who thinks self-centeredly about the world, events, and time. And the idea that a dream with a specific meaning could turn into a nightmare is a meaningful concern for me.

So…
What was your dream about last night?
What is your interpretation of that?
If it happens in reality, is it a coincidence or a prophecy?
Or is it an error of your subconscious?

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